Call for Sabbath
Sometimes on Sunday mornings I take notes on my bulletin. I try to be subtle, but inevitably it is visible. Occasionally people ask what I’m writing. The answer is always some form of to-do list; a to-do list of people to call or visit. Sometimes it is work to do in the upcoming week. I try and sanctify my list-making in church because it is after all, about church. However, no matter which way it gets sliced, it’s still list-making in church, it’s still setting my attention on something other than the task of Sabbath worship.
Sabbath day, a day devoted to pursuing God, is quickly becoming counter-cultural in our world. Keeping a Sabbath day also carries an element of rest. To take one day a week devoted to rest and to prayer is becoming harder and harder to do, which is exactly why we need to do it. Martin Luther once exclaimed “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer!” As people living God-centered lives, it is natural for us to press against the patterns of a world that is constantly demanding more. However, we are people living God-centered lives, and that takes tending. It takes acute focus in study and worship. It takes putting down the proverbial pencil and bulletin and making the first thing on the to-do list delighting in God’s presence.
This call for Sabbath rest doesn’t come from nowhere. The 10 commandments are one of the “big ones” for people of Judeo-Christian faith. They have spread out into our culture over the ages and can be recalled by many. Even people who do not have a religious tradition know what they are. We try to live by them.
And since they name such extremes like stealing and murdering and making false gods, it must mean that honoring the Sabbath is also an extreme thing.
The Sabbath is important because God took one in creating the world (Exodus 19:8-11) and because it reminds us how we are supposed to treat other people (Deuteronomy 5:12-14). It’s a commandment that we have as a culture reveled in breaking; we venerate the person who never stops. But it’s also a commandment that if we keep, holds the key to our being made new. Setting aside a day to tend to the worship of the God who has created us certainly is a worthy task. Setting aside a day to tend to our own renewal through worship and rest only can make us into better people the other six days.
So I’m going to be on the lookout for times to set down the pencil and bulletin. To rephrase Martin Luther, we have so much to do in the week; we shall spend the first day in prayer.
– Amy Diller, pastor in residency